Two thirds of parents and grandparents think childhoods are getting worse, study finds

Sarah Young

A children’s charity has warned that a “childhood crisis” could be on the way due to government cuts to services such as family crisis support to child protection.

Action for Children – a UK children's charity committed to helping vulnerable children and young people, and their families – conducted a survey of 5,000 young people and adults about their thoughts on childhood.

The poll, conducted in collaboration with YouGov, found that that two thirds of parents (60 per cent) and grandparents (62 per cent) felt childhoods were getting worse, and a third of children (34 per cent) agreed.

All of the participant’s said bullying, both online and offline, was the main problem, followed by pressure to fit in, which has intensified in the age of social media.

Furthermore, 91 per cent of children surveyed said they also worried about "adult issues", including Brexit, poverty and homelessness, and terrorism.

The environment and inequality were also on their minds.

Julie Bentley, chief executive of the charity, said: "The country is sleepwalking into a crisis in childhood and, far from being carefree, our children are buckling under the weight of unprecedented social pressures, global turmoil and a void in Government policy which should keep them well and safe.

"Our research shows children worry about poverty, homelessness and terrorism and the vulnerable children we work with every day are facing traumas like domestic abuse or neglect, going hungry or struggling with their mental health, without the support they desperately need."

As a result of the findings, Action for Children, has launched a campaign called “Choose Childhood” which calls on the Government to establish a National Childhood Strategy.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show the number of children living in poverty in the UK had risen to 4.1 million in 2017/18.

Similarly, funding for children's services was cut by 3bn, or 29 per cent, from 2010/11 to 2017/18.

Bentley called on the next prime minister to “wake up” to the growing crisis and provide adequate funding to “urgently needed services to keep children safe from harm”.

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In response to the findings, Damian Hinds, education secretary, said the UK government is making steps to address the concerns of young people by “identifying mental health problems and providing support in schools, encouraging young people to gain resilience and skills through activities such as sport and music, and teaching young people in school how to navigate the online world safely and constructively”.

Hinds also explained that the government is currently developing a new Youth Charter, which aims to combat serious violence and knife crime, and concerns about the environment and climate change.

Earlier this year, a report revealed that there had been a surge in children being detained in mental health hospitals for several months.

The Children’s Commissioner for England said too many children were being admitted to hospital unnecessarily and spending months and years of their childhood in institutions when they do not need to be there.

Figures published by Anne Longfield and her team showed the number of children with a learning disability or autism identified in a mental health hospital in England more than doubled in two years, to 250 youngsters in February 2019.